Pogacar, Froome, and Bernal Shine at the Ninth Edition of the Saitama Criterium in the Tour de France© Getty Images

The Japanese town embraces the cyclists, who mingle with fans from the Land of the Rising Sun the day before.

Tadej Pogačar, two-time Tour de France winner, is one of the stars shining brightest at the Saitama Criterium, taking place on the streets of the Japanese town. In the 2022 edition, over 100,000 fans gathered along the urban circuit, sparking excitement among enthusiasts. It's not just the Slovenian who will be the center of attention for followers; also present in the peloton will be two other Tour de France champions, the British rider Chris Froome and the Colombian Egan Bernal.

On Saturday, cyclists mingled and took part in various activities alongside Japanese citizens who eagerly welcome some of the world's best cyclists. The Saitama Arena was adorned with heart-shaped decorations and banners for 'Pogo,' as well as an elegant photographic montage of the Eagle of Durango, Vuelta a España champion Sepp Kuss.

Meanwhile, Giulio Ciccone created a piece representing the mountains. "Did I do it right? Did I do it wrong? I don't know, but it was tough!" confessed the King of the Mountains from the last Tour.

But that's not the final word, as Pogačar is determined to seek redemption on two wheels come Sunday. "I'm looking forward to it," said the Slovenian, who has already raced twice in Japan, first in the 2018 Japan Cup, and then in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, although he had never before participated in the Saitama Criterium.

On Sunday, November 5, Saitama will fully embrace the cyclists, and its streets will turn into a pedal-powered celebration.